Ryan White was an Indiana boy who became the face of the AIDS crisis after contracting it and being expelled from school. Stephen Mills was seven at the time and also a boy in Indiana. For him, the HIV/AIDS crisis was not exemplified by gay men, but by a child with a background similar to his. For many whose formative years occurred between the early 80’s and mid 90s, HIV and AIDS had a profound effect on their coming of age.
Many didn’t witness friends dying directly, but saw the news stories, movies and witnessed fear on the faces of authority figures and friends. Many gay men in this age group still bear enormous anxiety and paranoia about sex. They have been scolded about condom use their whole lives and were taught to associate sex with danger and death. This shape of things has long been a concern for Stephen Mills. One he’s touched on both as a gay man and as a professional poet. About a year ago, Stephen got the opportunity to put that concern and interest into practice with a job opportunity as an HIV/STI tester in NYC sex venues.